Experts witness population rebound for Kathleen Lake’s kokanee salmon

Scientists have counted a remarkable rebound of the kokanee salmon in the Kathleen Lake watershed of Kluane National Park and Reserve.

Scientists have counted a remarkable rebound of the kokanee salmon in the Kathleen Lake watershed of Kluane National Park and Reserve.

A drastic reduction in the number of fish returning to the spawning beds occurred after 2000, resulting in a closure of the sport fishery in 2004.

A small team of Parks Canada scientists have been monitoring this population since 1976.

“So every August we go out and historically it’s been around 3,000 fish returning to spawn,” ecologist Carmen Wong explained.

Then in 2001, there was a large crash down to 700.

“When I started in 2008, I counted 20,” Wong said.

In 2015, they counted around 5,000, following a more modest rise to 1,000 in 2014.

“So if you think about 20 back up to 5,000, that’s incredible.”

But hold the applause.

“We are not declaring this population recovered by any means, because so far we’ve just had two years of positive numbers. We would need several years more to figure out whether they are out of the red,” Wong said.

Kokanee are almost genetically identical to sockeye salmon, except they spend their entire lives in freshwater. In the case of Kathleen Lake’s salmon, it’s believed that they once migrated from the Alsek River to the Gulf of Alaska, but became land-locked when the Lowell Glacier surged and blocked this route.

Sockeye, like Kathleen Lake’s kokanee, are known to experience big swings in population size.

Scientists think this may be linked to climate, as swings in temperature cause stress to the salmon.

Parks Canada scientists are looking at water temperature, water levels and any other indicators that may help solve the mystery.

“It will be a long time before we can actually figure out – at least five years – until we start to get answers,” Wong said.

Parks Canada is asking for everyone’s cooperation to help the population recover. The possession ban is still in place, even for catch and release, as this population is extremely delicate.

Contact Lauren Kaljur at

lauren.kaljur@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Former Liard First Nation chief goes to court over June election

George Morgan is alleging corruption and bias on the part of the chief returning officer

No new COVID-19 cases despite infection ‘wake-up call’

Testing surged this week after the government released new information about infected visitors

Apology for racist actions of Yukon Energy Dawson City employee inadequate, complainants say

Two Dawson City residents who were accosted by a Yukon Energy employee… Continue reading

Yukon legal aid can only fund 100 hours to prep for murder case, executive director says

Lawyers for Charabelle and Lynzee Silverfox, charged with first-degree murder, seeking more funding

WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Aug. 5, 2020

Development incentives considered for three projects

Projects will add 24 rental units to the market

Delegate calls for crosswalk changes to show support for people of colour

Mayor states support for idea, but cautions it could take some time

Whitehorse advises of water system maintenance

Residents on the city’s water system are being advised they may notice… Continue reading

Walkway, signs planned for West Dawson paddlewheel graveyard

Unofficial attraction may get 135-m walkway and interpretive signs, if YESAB application approved

City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week. Tennis… Continue reading

Cancan show to return to Gerties

The Klondike Visitors Association announced in a press release on July 29… Continue reading

Air North named best airline

Tripadvisor named Air North the Travellers’ Choice Best Airline in Canada 2020… Continue reading

Community banking services to move to CIBC

A number of Yukon communities will see changes in banking this fall… Continue reading

Most Read